Hospice is a form of care specifically for patients that doctors have indicated may die in six months or less if there is no change to their condition. Being in hospice does not mean actively dying, or even necessarily that the patient will definitely pass away within the next six months. Simply, hospice is a different approach to care when curative treatment is no longer an option. Ultimately, the goal of Abramson Senior Care’s hospice program is to enhance the quality of life of our patients and their loved ones.
Read on for a further explanation of what this means.
No. It’s a common misunderstanding that being admitted to hospice means you’re going to die because you’ve given up. It is also not a doctor giving up on the patient. To the contrary, hospice refocuses the energy away from preventing death to enjoying the time that’s left. Patients can spend their final months focusing on what matters most to them by emphasizing quality of life and reducing pain and distress.
Patients and families find that they can focus on their relationships with the help of a nurse and case manager, as well as home health aides, social workers, and chaplains. Therefore hospice, rather than giving up, assists families in living well and supporting one another during a difficult but natural transition in their lives.
But does qualifying for hospice mean you’re dying? If a doctor says a patient qualifies for hospice, the doctor is saying that if the medical issue were to continue its current course, the patient likely has six months or less to live. Medicare and most private insurances will continue to cover hospice care if the patient meets this requirement. It is entirely possible that a patient can live beyond those six months, in which case a doctor can re-certify that hospice care is still needed. However, ifthe patient’s condition improves or a new form of treatment arises, the patient may very well be taken off hospice.
Once a patient no longer meets the hospice eligibility requirements, Medicare and other private insurances usually stop covering them. If a patient then meets the eligibility requirements again in the future, insurance coverage will usually resume.
So, does qualifying for hospice mean you’re dying? In a sense, hospice care is only available to patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This happens when a patient's treatment is no longer effective or when he or she has decided to put quality of life ahead of aggressive treatment plans. Patients typically go on hospice because they have decided not to continue treatment for their illness or treatments are no longer working, not that they die because they go on hospice.
When a doctor makes the decision to admit a patient to hospice care, in addition to a life expectancy of six months or less, they will consider the following factors:
Cognitive and functional abilities change over time
Skin breakdown or recurrent infections
Frequent admittance to the hospital in the past six months
Increased fatigue, weakness, and weight loss
Patient's activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, continence, transferring, or walking, have deteriorated
The important thing to consider is that if your loved one is experiencing these issues, placing them on hospice can actually make the time they have left better, because they receive access to treatments that help alleviate pain, nausea, stress, and other negative factors that can make their remaining time worse instead of better. Additionally, hospice provides social and psychological support to help both patients and family members navigate through their worries and concerns that accompany living with a terminal illness. Through a holistic model of care, hospice is there to make sure that patients and families have expert help during a difficult time in life.
To learn more about whether hospice means you’re dying or to explore our hospice care services, please call 215.371.1393.